MIAMI (CBS4) – A new twist on a known phone scam that usually targets seniors is now affecting people of all ages.
The scam involves people randomly calling phone numbers and pretending that the person’s loved ones are in danger, leading the caller to ask for a ransom.
This story hit close to the CBS4 family. It happened to a close friend of reporter Jorge Estevez.
“I received a phone call early in the morning saying that my brother was in a car accident,” said Enrique Betancourt who recently became the victim of scam.
“I said ‘what happened? What happened?’” said Betancourt.
Betancourt said the man on the other end of the phone began describing, in little detail, how Betancourt’s brother was involved in an accident with a motorcycle and then a gang of people with the motorcyclist took his brother hostage. The caller did not specify his brother’s name or give a description.
“The guy on the phone said they attacked my brother and hit him in the head with a gun,” said Betancourt.
The details came through a call from a complete stranger, usually police say, from a pre-paid cell phone.
For the first few minutes, Betancourt wanted details to verify the tragedy.
“It is happening really, really, really, fast – fast enough so you don’t ask questions,” said Betancourt.
And that’s usually part of the scam; they kept him on the phone with little details and then the bombshell.
“He said ‘stop, stop. If you hang up the phone, they are going to kill your brother.’ They want 1500 dollars or they will kill him,” said Betancourt.
A few minutes into the phone call, the number one priority for Enrique was to get the brother on the phone and that is when the light bulb went off. Betancourt convinced the caller to let him put the phone down to get dressed and go out to get the money, but instead he walked to his home office and tried to reach his brother from a home phone
That gave him some time to locate his brother and the ordeal was over. According to the phone log, it ended 13 minutes after it began.
“They are random calls so it is not a specific group of people that they are targeting,” said Detective Keandra Simmons with the Miami Police Department.
In fact, according to Miami Police stats, six other victims have contacted police in the past few months.
“Same exact thing. It is a phone call from suspect saying a loved one is involved in a motorcycle crash. They want them to send money to set them free. It was the exact same “MO” for each one,” said Simmons.
As for Betancourt, he felt taken, but feels worse for other victims who may not have known how to handle that kind of call.
“It was the most horrible and happiest day of my life when I actually heard my brother’s voice. He was just lounging on the couch,” said Betancourt.
According to police, if your loved one is out of town and they call you about he or she being in danger then you can call the police department in your city and they can contact your loved ones local police department and verify that he or she is O.K.